The future of hybrid work is a big responsibility for policymakers, and they need to act responsibly.
The LinkedIn feed in 2020 was full of positivity, productivity, and mental wellness. From the HRs, CEOs, and Founders to all the latest surveys, corporate giants, and international events were talking about the employees’ mental health and well-being. After the lockdowns were imposed, WFH became a new normal and topic of discussion.
A few organizations announced lifetime WFH for their employees, a few called it ‘the future of work culture.’ However, as the COVID restrictions are being lifted, more companies want their employees to return to the physical workplace. But what does it mean for the employees? How are they reacting to returning to their offices? Here is what findings say on the future of hybrid work.
Returning to the offices is disrupting the mental wellness of employees
WFH had become a new normal when the pandemic hit, however, it is becoming a thing of luxury for most of the workers as the lockdown eases. As the people are getting vaccinated, the organizations want them to return to the on-site workplace. Though employees showed a mixed reaction to this, nearly half of those who returned to the on-site work, expressed concern about their mental health. A report by McKinsey shows that 46 percent of employees reported a negative impact on their mental health after returning to the offices.
A lot of organizations are returning to the traditional 9-5 work culture, deducting salaries for being late, fixing lunch hours, and measuring the working times. For many workers, returning to the old work culture is becoming challenging. Many workers considered quitting rather than accepting the traditional work culture.
A report shows that one in three American workers would not consider working for an employer that required full-time on-site work. The same report shows that 87 percent of the US workforce wants to work remotely at least once a week.
“Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work. Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly — inclusive of collaboration, learning, and wellbeing to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work.”
Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft
The work culture has seen rapid and drastic transformation during the pandemic, and most probably the biggest change than any other area. The employees’ behavior, expectations, and habits are changing and the employers are finding it hard to cope with the changes. 2020 Glint data showed that 71 percent of employees wanted to stay with their current organization for two years, in contrast to that, a new Microsoft data shows that 41 percent of employees are likely to consider leaving their current jobs within a year in the post-pandemic situation.
The world has already witnessed a great wave of resignation in 2021, which the experts called ‘the great resignation.’ Nearly 4.3 million American workforces served resignations in August 2021. A Randstad survey showed that 69% of UK workers plan to leave their job within the next couple of months. There could be multiple reasons for the resignation, such as the uncertainty of job security in 2020, which made employees stick with their previous jobs.
However, several studies and experts agree to the point that burnout and mental health concerns are becoming the major reasons for employees leaving their organizations. Long working hours during the pandemic, doubting the employees during WFH, lack of career growth and inadequacy of wellness benefits made employees change their employers. A Beamery Talent Index shows that 42 percent of employees want flexible working opportunities returning to the office.
The same report says that nearly half (44%) employees said their employers don’t have a talent acceleration program to address high achievers, making employees look for new opportunities. More than half of the respondents said they were looking to switch jobs.
The Future Of Hybrid Work
WFH definitely didn’t go well with both employees and the employers as a long-term phenomenon. While employers expressed digital exhaustion, burnout, and feeling of isolation, the employers’ complaints about lack of team interaction, more siloed teams, and being out of touch with employees.
For a better and more productive future, full-time WFH might be a bad idea, hence many leaders and workers are preferring a hybrid and flexible working model. The future needs to be extremely flexible and hybrid ready for the organization’s growth, employees’ well-being, and friendlier work culture. The workplaces need to be redesigned for a comfortable, supportive, and future-ready workspace.
The current survey suggests that the current working ecosystem is not ready to adopt flexible work precisely. Many employees complained to be overloaded with work, faced issues with the tech and found it difficult working with the managers. One in five employees feels their employers won’t care about their well-being and work-life balance.
Microsoft’s ‘The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work’ survey reveals that 73 percent of workers want a flexible and remote working option to stay. The same reports reveal that one in five respondents feels their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance. Fifty-four percent feel overworked and thirty-nine percent feel exhausted. However, the business leaders responded more positively than their employees. Sixty-one percent of leaders feel thriving. Many were satisfied with their growth and salary. They also reported having built stronger relationships with their colleagues.
As remote work has become a new normal, the big corporate giants and tech companies are planning to redesign their workspace for a more flexible working atmosphere to retain their employees. Sixty-six percent of leaders said they are considering redesigning their infrastructure to make a better environment for their employees. A flexible working environment won’t only provide better working opportunities to the workers, but also help organizations to grow positively.
Virtual meetings and remote work allowed employees to express their thoughts, feedback, and issues with their employers more comfortably. The employers were too able to address the issues and end the communication gaps with their employees and consider restructuring their company policies and infrastructure. The Microsoft survey showed that remote work brought colleagues closer than ever before. 1 in 6 (17 percent) workers cried with a coworker.
Many workers came closer to their co-workers and met with their family members virtually. The remote work allowed workers to know their co-workers better, share a strong bond, build stronger relationships, and help in team building.
Giving the option to work remotely didn’t only serve as perks to the employees, also helped the organizations to build lasting relationships with the employees. Several studies have shown that workers, with an option to work remotely, were more likely to stay with their organizations than those who want employees to be in an on-site workspace.
Statista’s report shows more than 30 percent of respondents were in favour of the hybrid work model and 65 percent wanted to continue WFH, whereas only 2 percent wanted to return to their offices. The same survey showed 58% of workers are willing to join a new organization instead of returning to the offices.
The future of hybrid work seems more favorable. The current surveys and trends show the employees don’t want to stay with the traditional work culture but move to a diverse, extremely flexible, and hybrid future.
Remote work, Flexibility, and Women
Pandemic, however, affected many working women, especially in the informal sector and factories, but women in the formal sector and tech industry found flexible working more favorable. The flexible working model allowed many women to restart their careers and take more opportunities to join the workforce. Experts believe that a flexible and hybrid working option would help to minimize the gender inequality gap in the corporate world and build more diverse and encouraging opportunities for women.
Studies have found that more women than men are willing to apply for remote jobs. LinkedIn data shows that women are 26 percent more likely to apply for remote jobs than men. A UK-based organization Independent showed that the number of women employees, aged between 25 and 44, increased during the pandemic by 1.8 percent. 74 percent of mothers to children, ages between 0 and 3, are currently working, against 68 percent in 2019.
Another report shows that 500,000 women shifted their work from part-time to full-time during the pandemic, making about 48 percent of the overall workforce, up by 1 percent in 2019. The Catalyst report shows that remote working options allowed 32 percent of women with childcare responsibility to continue with their jobs as compared to those without access to a remote job.
Flexible and hybrid work models enabled more opportunities for women and they want it to continue. The policymakers need to restructure the policies and workplaces to build a more gender-neutral infrastructure.
A hybrid and flexible workplace is indeed the future and no doubt that the new policies will discuss more mental health, well-being, productivity, and healthy relations with the employees. The leaders and managers have a big role to play to build a future-ready workplace. The future of hybrid work is a big responsibility for the CEOs and policymakers, and the data is clear, more employees want a hybrid and flexible working environment.